Vacations — if you’re lucky — can sometimes allow you to think.
Or in my case, read a book AND think.
And so, while at the beach last week, I pulled out my Kindle and read “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”. The book tracks the friendships of two video game developers and their college friend who produces their games. (I loved it.)
In reading it, it allowed me to crystallize something that I’ve been thinking about in the advice I provide to clients and the cases I see.
In “Tomorrow”, small and medium slights (real and perceived) lead to friends not talking to each other. In employment cases, I see some of the same types of slights — sometimes by supervisors, and sometimes by those who are being supervised — lead to disagreements or lawsuits.
Instead of affording the other person a little grace — that is, some courteous goodwill — one friend (or supervisor/supervisee) will instead dig into their own sense of self-righteousness. No indignity is small enough to claim trauma (or discrimination or harassment).
As one of the characters, Sadie, in “Tomorrow” notes, some in this generation wear their “pain like a badge of honor”. She notes, “they, honest to God, think their traumas are the most interesting thing about them.”
The other character (Sam) asks her, “If their traumas are the most interesting things about them, how do they get over any of it?” And Sadie responds, “I don’t think they do. Or maybe they don’t have to, I don’t know.”
Too many cases nowadays seem built on virtual nothingness. A misunderstanding. A slight. A desire, perhaps, to be the victim.
(Of course, this is not to say that discrimination and harassment cases don’t exist; they do and must continue to be highlighted and shut down.)
A small segment of employees are looking to pick a fight. They can be too quick to claim that they’re being treated differently when the supervisor is merely trying to meet a sales quota or other metric.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Indeed, a few supervisors can be too quick to punish an employee who may be dealing with depression that they are too proud to let the supervisor know they are struggling with. No excuse is good enough for some managers.
What both sides could use a little more grace and understanding. Maybe there’s more to the story for both supervisors and supervisees.
As the friends in “Tomorrow” realize, perhaps too late, the slights that each one carries about the other only serve to cause pain to themselves.
So when I talk to clients, I try to make sure that we have a clear understanding of the facts. Is there more to the story than the perspective they’ve been given by a supervisor?
At the end of the day, not every slight will be cured with grace. Or a vacation. But a little bit more of each can’t hurt.